How Andrew Hawkins 'Plays like a Brown'
- A former underutilized slot receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, Andrew Hawkins has found himself on the field nearly every play for the Browns. Cleveland's overflowing Hawkins' plate in responsibility and the 5-foot-7 speedster has responded. He's fourth in the NFL in receptions with 14 and many have come on key situations. Hawkins has even shown off some of his blocking skills.
- "He's strong," said offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. "He's not going to just sit there and dominate a guy by himself, but when the backs can press it they can help him out. He gives the backs a two-way go, and his man rarely does make the play. He does his job in the run game, and that's all we ask."
- When beat writers drum up columns about the culture change in Cleveland, they always use defensive free agent acquisitions Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner. But to Pettine, Hawkins is just as important to making other players want to buy-in.
- "He's not a real vocal leader, but when he feels the need to speak up he'll do it and guys listen because there's that respect for him," said Pettine. "For the circumstances that he's had to overcome to get to where he in now, there's a lot of respect for him and there's a lot of respect for the way he approaches his craft – the weight room, the meeting room, the practice field. It obviously carries over to the games."
- Because Hawkins, 28, is smaller than most NFL players and still so important to the heartbeat of the Browns' offense, Pettine admitted the club might put the receiver on a pitch count later in the season during practice to rest his body.
- "We talked about this in training camp that he goes so hard that the offensive staff, particularly [wide receivers coach] Mike McDaniel, have to do a good job just kind of monitoring his reps and seeing what his daily workload is because, you're right, it is difficult for a guy that's built like that and is as fearless as he is and goes as hard as he does," said Pettine. "That is a potential issue."
Defensive game plan
- Coach Mike Pettine told reporters on Thursday the Ravens are tougher to prepare for because of how balanced they are. In their Week 2 win over Pittsburgh, the Ravens had 36 run plays for 157 yards and 29 pass plays for 166 yards. Last week against the Saints, the Browns dared New Orleans to run the football. On Sunday, there will have to be more of a detailed game plan in preventing Baltimore from having success on offense.
- In particular, Pettine said his team will have to formulate plans for new Ravens receiver Steve Smith. Last season Baltimore had trouble replacing Anquan Boldan, forcing Torrey Smith to often carry a burdening load. That's not the case in 2014.
- "[Steve] has been a catalyst for them, just a leader on and off the field, very emotional, just a ball of energy," said Pettine. "It's important. Sometimes, you're just missing that one piece. He seems to be that guy for them."
- Opening up the season against three Super Bowl winning quarterbacks -- Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Joe Flacco -- is no small task. And even though many consider Flacco to be on the teetering edge of the NFL's top quarterbacks. The Browns regard Flacco just as highly as Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees.
- "I think we're playing another elite quarterback," said defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil. "He's a quarterback who's won a Super Bowl. Joe has got one of the strongest arms in the NFL. He throws a great deep ball. I think he's doing a great job getting the ball out of his hands and checking it down to the running backs. They're running a lot of quicker concepts with them to get the ball out of his hands so he's not taking the sacks that he took last year. He's a sneaky athlete."
Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has strong ties to Cleveland's staff
- Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was considered by Mike Pettine to run the Browns' offense. But at the time, Kubiak was still feeling out whether he wanted to take a year off, after being fired as the head coach of the Texans. Pettine and Kubiak spoke on the phone, but ultimately Cleveland went in the direction of Kyle Shanahan.
- Speaking of Shanahan – it was Kubiak who gave the 34-year-old his first-ever offensive coordinating gig in Houston back in 2008. In some mildly surprising comments, Shanahan says he probably stole more of his coaching style from Kubiak than he did his own father, Mike. Remember, Shanahan didn't coach with his dad until 2010 in Washington. So when Kyle had questions about how to operate meetings and other coaching duties, he sought out the advice of Kubiak.
Special teams shuffle
- Wide receiver Marlon Moore, not Travis Benjamin, is now listed as the Browns number one return man. Moore has shown excellent burst and had two big kickoff returns in the preseason. Moore also had a 32-yarder last week against the Saints.
- "I like all our guys, as I stated last week," said special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. "He did some great things for us in the preseason and deserved that opportunity. Travis [Benjamin's] role expanded a little bit offensively so we took a little off his plate there, but Travis Benjamin will still also return kicks for us this season."
- A special teams stud who may have emerged last week against New Orleans? K'Waun Williams. The undrafted rookie cornerback from Pittsburgh leveled Saints return man Tavaris Cadet on two occasions. Williams had never really played special teams before his arrival in Cleveland, but has completely owned the role thus far.
- "I love the coaching staff here," said Williams. "They are into it and it really makes us want to go to that much harder, because of the enthusiasm they show."